Family History Friday: Writing your own story

Okay, so you’ve followed our tips on how to write up the stories of your ancestors. But what about your own story? What would you like future descendants to know about you?


If you’re not sure where to start we’ve a few questions that might help you to flesh out your own story.


1. What is your earliest memory? You might be able to go back further than you’d first think as you may remember occasions from when you were only aged 2 or 3.


2. When you were a child did you have a favourite toy? Why was it your favourite?


3. What have been your favourite television shows? Or favourite films? Again, why did you enjoy them so much?


4. Did you ever have a nickname? Was it one used only by your family or was it used by your friends? Can you remember why you acquired it?

5. What was your favourite subject at school? Or your favourite teacher? Who were your best friends at school? And did they remain your friends after you left school?


6. When you were young, how did your family spend time together? Did you go out for walks? Or play endless games of monopoly?


7. What did you want to be when you grew up? An engine driver, a teacher or an astronaut?


8. Where have you travelled, either for work or on holiday? Do you have a favourite destination? What holiday memories could you share?


9. Did you ever do anything naughty when you were a child? (Careful with this one, you may not wish to disclose too much!)


10. Who was your first love? And how did you meet your husband / wife?


11. Did you go out to work? What did you do? And did you enjoy it?

12. Many of us learn to drive and own a car. What was your first car like?


13. What sweets did you like to eat when you were a child?


14. Where have you lived? Can you describe the different houses in which you have lived?


15. Do you have any secrets? Or any regrets? (Again, you may not want to disclose too much here – it’s up to you).

Reading through these questions may also make you realise that you could use them, not only to tell your own story, but as a basis to find out more about the older members of your family whilst they are still with you.


Family History Friday: Checking your Research

We’ve recently received the following comment about researching your family tree:

“I have been researching mine a few years and I have struggled going down the wrong ancestor. I have not done a family tree of my own but looked and printed others out. I would really like to know if I have got it right.”

It’s one of those problems that, as family historians, we all face and struggle with. Is the person that we’ve just come across really a part of our family?

Many of the main genealogy sites offer hints, directing you to other records that may relate to the person you’re searching for. But whilst these hints can save time they can also lead you astray.  And many of us have experienced finding a close member of the family appearing on someone else’s tree and we know without doubt that it can’t be correct.

So before you happily add a possible ancestor, or a life event, to your tree, we’ve a few suggestions of things to check.

Let’s start with the obvious checks first. Does this really relate to your ancestor or is it someone with the same or a similar name and dates? Just because your ancestor has, what to you, seems an unusual name, doesn’t mean that they’re unique. We’ve recently come across an instance of someone’s own mother being added to somebody else’s (unrelated) tree because “her name was so unusual it just had to be her.” It wasn’t! If the record you’re looking at includes other people’s names, do those names fit with what you already know? Whilst census records can be relatively easy to cross reference if several family members lived in the one house, other records such as birth, marriage and death certificates should provide sufficient information for you to check with your already known facts.

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If your sixth sense is telling you it’s wrong, then it probably is. Look at what you already know about your family. Do the dates match up? Could that woman really have had a child at so young an age? Could your ancestor really have moved from Scotland to England between being born and baptised? Or become an ag lab on a census after years of being a lawyer? Yes, these suggestions may seem far-fetched but hopefully you’ll get the idea.

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If alarm bells are still ringing, then look at the source. Why was it created? What is it telling you? Is it contradicting known facts? Of course there’s always the possibility that your “known fact” could be wrong, which has happened to all of us at some point or another, so don’t dismiss it completely out of hand. Better to realise that now rather than wasting time pursuing people who don’t relate to you.

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What about the record itself? Is it one that’s familiar to you or one you’ve never come across before? It could be worthwhile finding out more about it. The website you’re using should show you the category that that record comes under which should give you more information about it. Bear those records in mind for the future as they may prove to be helpful to you when you’re researching other ancestors.

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There’s no harm in adding a “maybe”, just so long as you make that obvious. Many of the family history websites give you the option to store a hint without having to add it to your tree. Other records may come to light in the future which may help to prove whether or not that hint is correct. Or your own future research may help.

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And finally, as someone we know well puts it, if it has a bill, webbed feet and lays eggs then it probably will be a duck. But we’d like to add that if it has a bill, webbed feet, lays eggs and has fur, then it could be a duck billed platypus! A very different beast which, if you were researching a family of ducks, you would definitely not want to be adding to their tree! So bear that in mind when checking your ancestors. Good luck!

Family History Friday: How to write your family history Part 2

We promised that we’d come back to this topic this week with further hints and tips to help you get started. So here they are!


1. How many people do you want to focus on in your story? A single person who lead a particularly interesting life? Or a single family who all share the same surname? Or do you want to include several different family lines?

2. It could be helpful to compile a list of events, with dates, for each individual as that’ll help you to write their story. This may also help you to recognise the most interesting people, or a theme that connects several characters.

3. How are you going to structure the stories? Often a simple account, going from the earliest date and working forwards in time, will work best. Don’t try and make it too complicated by starting in the middle and working both backwards and forwards in time.


4. You don’t have to start at the beginning. Instead write about someone or something that you know plenty about as this will give you the confidence to then tackle the more difficult bits and help you to find your “voice”.


5. You’re bound to have varying amounts of information about each ancestor – some will just be their names and important dates in their life, others you’ll know far more about. You don’t need to treat each person in the same way, instead concentrate on those you know most about and skip over the others.


6. It may seem obvious, but do use the past tense when you write up your history. It will make it easier to read.


7. It’s a good idea to add context to the story so include what was happening in the local area and in the wider world. To give a current analogy, think of the effect that Coronavirus has had on your life. You’d probably want a future family historian to include it if they wrote about you. But don’t speculate over much about the wider issues as they may not have affected your ancestors as much as you’d think.


8. If you’ve got family photographs then do use them to illustrate the story. Illustrations help to keep a reader’s interest so include maps where possible, drawings, documents and any other images that you might have access to. Just make sure that they are historically accurate and that they are not subject to any copyright laws.


9. And finally, all writers need to edit their stories. Nobody, even J K Rowling, gets it right first time. So leave each segment for a day or two before you go through it again to see if it needs improvement.

Family History Friday: How to write your family history

As family historians we all dream of one day writing up our research for future generations but very few of us will actually do this. Why? Perhaps we think we don’t have the time. Or we’re not ready yet – there’s always that tantalising nugget of a new fact that we might, just might, find out. But mostly it’s because we feel overwhelmed by the amount of information that we’ve gathered over the years and don’t know where to start.

If that sounds familiar, then take our advice – don’t delay, start today! But how?

The first thing to remember is that there’s no right or wrong way to write up your family history. It’s your research, your family story so write it in the way that feels most comfortable to you. We’ve a few tips that might help you decide how to go about it.

Firstly, decide who you’re writing for.  Is it just for your family? Or do you think your research might be of interest to the local community, particularly if some of your ancestors held important positions in their local town. Do you want to publish it so that the whole world could read it?

Secondly, what format are you going to use? A word-processor printout in a ring binder? Or a full colour hardbound book? If you’ve a large collection of photographs and other memorabilia you might want to include them separately in a photo album or scrapbook. Or you may decide to publish your story through a website or a series of blog posts.

Thirdly, creative writing might not have been your “thing” when you were at school. Don’t worry, nobody is going to be critical if you’re not the next J K Rowling. You don’t need to have the writing skills or imagination that a famous author will have – what you’re hoping to achieve is a readable and interesting account of your family. So include those facts that grabbed you or intrigued you as that’ll make it a more interesting read.

And finally, don’t feel that you need to include everyone in your story, or insert a load of dates of everyone’s birth, marriage and death. That’ll cause people to lose interest very quickly. Instead what you need are the stories and those stories require detail. So don’t just include facts from censuses and parish registers, flesh out the stories with accounts from newspapers (we’ve all appeared in the newspapers at some time or another), court records, wills, school and military records. By examining what you have already learned about a person, you may realise that you need to do further research.

We’ll be coming back to this topic next week with some more hints and tips for you to help you get started. But in the meantime, dig out your research and using our advice above, start thinking about how you’ll go about writing up your family history.

WordFest Week 4

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Time flies when you’re having fun. It is the last week of WordFest 2020 but there is still plenty to do before we bid a fond adieu to our wordy festival until next year.

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Here’s what is afoot in our branches this week:

Places are limited, so call the library to ensure you don’t miss out!

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Let’s make some words! Sculpt a word using anything you can lay your hands on. Lego, Play-Doh, pasta shapes, twigs, berries and leaves from the park, chalk it on the pavement, make digital art, or build it in Minecraft. It’s up to you! 

Take photos of what you made and post to social media.

You can pick up templates for papercraft letters from your library or download them here. Print them out, stick them together and decorate however you like. 

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The Rhyme Challenge is a fun way to introduce children and families to rhymes and some simple Makaton signs.

Makaton is a visual way to communicate used in many nurseries and schools and lots of us have enjoyed joining in with CBeebies Mr Tumble. So we thought that as part of WordFest we would challenge children and families to learn some rhymes and Makaton signs together.

Sharing rhymes and signs every day, even for a few minutes, can help your child to grow into a reader.

Encourage your child to join in and give them lots of eye contact and smiles. Your child will soon learn that rhymes are fun and exciting.

The great thing about rhymes is that you can sing, say or sign them anywhere. You don’t need any musical instruments or even to be in tune!

Get the whole family involved, older children and grandparents will have lots of fun too!

If you sing and sign rhymes over and over with your child they will soon be joining in with the signs and learning new words, even babies!

This week’s word is Mouse

And our nursery rhyme is Hickory Dickory Dock

Congratulations, you have completed the WordFest Makaton challenge! Download your certificate or pick one up from your local library.

Guest Blog: Wakefield LitFest

Elizabeth, from the Wakefield LitFest programme board, guest blogs to share how the life experiences of their members have moulded their language

Is it an alley, a snicket or a ginnel? Up and down this sceptered isle, that question has echoed for generations (that and is it sk-own or sk-on, but we’re not going to get into that right now). Every family has a different answer.

Ollie, for example, says for him it’s always a snicket or a ginnel, never an alley. Amy says it’s a ginnel, but that it fluctuates between “ginn-el” and “ginn-al”. Chole’s dad makes a distinction between the three terms based on size and geographical location- a snicket is a rural alley, and an alley is a large ginnel. All in all, different definitions and pronunciations of the terms seem pretty personal, and varies region to region, family to family.

English as a language is rich in a variety of accents and dialects, especially in places as diverse as Yorkshire. The stereotypical Yorkshire accent and dialect is in fact a range of different regional sociolects, some of which are more recognizable than others. A Barnsley accent is wildly different from a Leeds accent, for example. On top of that, according to factors like having a family with a mix of accents, one can develop a dialect that is unique to them (an idiolect, if you will). 

“I grew up in North Harrogate” says Chloe. “And we had a really strange mix of Yorkshire, RP (received pronunciation, also called “Queen’s English”) and a bit of American from the army base.”

Accents can also change over time. Amy says:

“I used to have a very strong Wakey accent but now I’m much more RP-ish, especially because my university was very international so I got used to being clear for people who have English as a second language.”

Having a regional accent can become a part of your identity, and can tether you to your roots. For books that include Yorkshire accents and dialects, you could check out A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines, or the movie version Kes, which is written in a Barnsley dialect, and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, which is many people’s first introduction to a Yorkshire accent in literature.

Follow Wakefield LitFest on social media:

Twitter @WakeyLitfest

Instagram @WakefieldLitFest 

Facebook @WakeyLitFest

WordFest Week 3

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Here’s what is afoot in our branches this week:

Places are limited, so call the library to ensure you don’t miss out!

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In week 3 of #WordFest we are talking about dialect and in particular the peculiar language spoken in God’s own country. We’re putting together a list of as many Yorkshire-isms as we can think of – a dictionary of Tyke Talk.

So let’s have a kall about laiking and baifing, lug oyles and coil oyles. We know what we mean.

Post your words on social media using the hashtag #TykeTalk and tagging @WFlibraries on Twitter or @WakefieldLibraries on Facebook. Don’t forget to include a definition!

And keep an eye on @WFLibraries on Twitter and Instagram where we will be opening our social media pages to some of the country’s most hotly debated topics: Is it a ginnel or a snicket? A breadcake or a bap? Let’s try not to get the monk on about it.   

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The Rhyme Challenge is a fun way to introduce children and families to rhymes and some simple Makaton signs.

Makaton is a visual way to communicate used in many nurseries and schools and lots of us have enjoyed joining in with CBeebies Mr Tumble. So we thought that as part of WordFest we would challenge children and families to learn some rhymes and Makaton signs together.

Sharing rhymes and signs every day, even for a few minutes, can help your child to grow into a reader.

Encourage your child to join in and give them lots of eye contact and smiles. Your child will soon learn that rhymes are fun and exciting.

The great thing about rhymes is that you can sing, say or sign them anywhere. You don’t need any musical instruments or even to be in tune!

Get the whole family involved, older children and grandparents will have lots of fun too!

If you sing and sign rhymes over and over with your child they will soon be joining in with the signs and learning new words, even babies!

This week’s word is bird

And our nursery rhyme is Two Little Dickie Birds

WordFest Week 2

Welcome to WordFest!

How much fun was Week 1 of WordFest? We’ve had family storytelling, haikus, theatre in the library and much more.

And that was just week 1! Keep on reading to find out what we have in store for week 2.

Here’s what is afoot in our branches this week:

Places are limited, so call the library to ensure you don’t miss out!

In addition to these events, our branches are becoming WordLabs which will have a different theme every week. Don’t worry if you can’t visit a branch, you can join in online and you’ll find everything you need right here.

So without further ado…

Week 2 is all about Your Favourite Books

Have you ever loved a book so much that you want to tell the whole world about it? Well this is your chance because this week we want to hear all about your favourite book. What do you love about it and why should absolutely everybody read it?

  • Pick up a book review activity sheet from your library or download one here.  
  • Tell us why we should read your favourite book within Twitter’s 280 character limit (remember to tag @WFlibraries!)
  • Can you sum up your favourite book using only emojis?

We don’t mind how you do it, we just want to hear about it! 

And keep an eye on @WFLibraries on Twitter and Instagram where we will be using the very scientific method of social media polls to answer the question “Who is the Best Book Character?”

The Rhyme Challenge is a fun way to introduce children and families to rhymes and some simple Makaton signs.

Makaton is a visual way to communicate used in many nurseries and schools and lots of us have enjoyed joining in with CBeebies Mr Tumble. So we thought that as part of WordFest we would challenge children and families to learn some rhymes and Makaton signs together.

Sharing rhymes and signs every day, even for a few minutes, can help your child to grow into a reader.

Encourage your child to join in and give them lots of eye contact and smiles. Your child will soon learn that rhymes are fun and exciting.

The great thing about rhymes is that you can sing, say or sign them anywhere. You don’t need any musical instruments or even to be in tune!

Get the whole family involved, older children and grandparents will have lots of fun too!

If you sing and sign rhymes over and over with your child they will soon be joining in with the signs and learning new words, even babies!

This week’s words are Pig, Cow and Sheep

And our nursery rhyme is Old Macdonald

WordFest Week 1

Welcome to WordFest!

All October we will be celebrating the power of words by having lots of wordy fun in our branches and online.

Here’s what is afoot in our branches this week:

Places are limited, so call the library to ensure you don’t miss out!

In addition to these events, our branches are becoming WordLabs which will have a different theme every week. Don’t worry if you can’t visit a branch, you can join in online and you’ll find everything you need right here.

So without further ado…

Week 1 is all about Haikus

What is a Haiku?

Simon will explain for you

It’s really simple:

(By the way, that was a Haiku)

So are you up for the challenge? Climate change is a massive subject and you might find it hard to narrow down your thoughts in to such a short poem. Here’s a worksheet with some questions to consider, and words you might want to use.

Once you have composed your Haiku we’d love to hear them. They could become part of an exciting art exhibition coming to Wakefield next year. To submit a Haiku you have a few options:

  • You can record your Haiku in any of our libraries – just pop in and ask a member of staff.
  • You could record your Haiku on your own tablet or smart phone – Then post it on social media using the hashtag #WordFest and tagging @WakefieldLibraries on Facebook or @WFlibraries on Twitter.
  • Or send us your written Haikus and we’ll record them for you – You can pick up an activity sheet from your library or use the one above. Hand your completed sheets in to a library, post them on social media or email them to lib.admin@wakefield.gov.uk

The Rhyme Challenge is a fun way to introduce children and families to rhymes and some simple Makaton signs.

Makaton is a visual way to communicate used in many nurseries and schools and lots of us have enjoyed joining in with CBeebies Mr Tumble. So we thought that as part of WordFest we would challenge children and families to learn some rhymes and Makaton signs together.

Sharing rhymes and signs every day, even for a few minutes, can help your child to grow into a reader.

Encourage your child to join in and give them lots of eye contact and smiles. Your child will soon learn that rhymes are fun and exciting.

The great thing about rhymes is that you can sing, say or sign them anywhere. You don’t need any musical instruments or even to be in tune!

Get the whole family involved, older children and grandparents will have lots of fun too!

If you sing and sign rhymes over and over with your child they will soon be joining in with the signs and learning new words, even babies!

This week’s word is Star

And our nursery rhyme is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Strictly speaking Week 1 should really be called Week and a half 1. So we have another sign and nursery rhyme for you.

This week’s second word is Teddy Bear

Family History Friday: Coroner’s Inquests

The Railway Hotel public house, Featherstone, in the 1930s from http://www.twixtaireandcalder.org.uk. The original Inn was built around 1845, for Arthur Heywood, and called the Heywood Arms. Inquests were held in The Heywood Arms, up until the end of the nineteenth century.

If your ancestor died in unexplained circumstances, there may have been a coroner’s inquest. These were usually held at the local public house, workhouse or the actual building where the death occurred.

Until 1752 coroners handed their records to assize judges. These were later transferred to The National Archives. After 1860 inquest records were filed through the quarter sessions and you’ll find those that survive will usually be in the local archives.

If you wish to learn more about the origins and development of the coroner system see
https://www.coronersociety.org.uk/the-coroners-society/history/

For a good introduction to the subject have a look at https://www.londonlives.org/static/IC.jsp . Here you’ll find images and transcriptions of over 5,000 inquests from the City of London, and Middlesex and Westminster.

Newspaper reports of an inquest are often the only surviving record. https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/ . You can search by name or keyword, as well as for newspapers by title, area and date range.

The National Archives has a good guide to Coroners’ Inquests which can be found at https://nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/coroners-inquests/

In Scotland fatal accidents were processed through the sheriff courts and most are listed in the online catalogue https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/guides/fatal-accident-inquiry-records . There’s also a National Records of Scotland guide to Sheriff Court records https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/guides/sheriff-court-records .

For examples of Coroners’ Inquests:
Salisbury – https://salisburyinquests.wordpress.com/ . Transcribed press reports from 1868 to 1920, covering Salisbury and South Wiltshire.
Hertfordshire – https://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/services/libraries-and-archives/hertfordshire-archives-and-local-studies/whats-in-the-archives/coroners-records.aspx . Includes an index to fatalities between 1827 and 1933.
Sussex – https://www.sussexrecordsociety.org/olb/srs014/901/ . Free-to-view online book “Notes of Post Mortem Inquisitions taken in Sussex” from 1485 to 1649.

Pontefract and District Family History Society have indexed the Inquest Notebooks 1844 – 1885 of Thomas Taylor, County Coroner, which covers Brotherton, Ferry Fryston, Knottingley and Pontefract. A paperback copy is available (reference only) at Pontefract Library.

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